We’ve all heard it, and many of us have even said it before — after chowing down on a “cheat food” such as chili cheese fries or a doughnut, the typical comeback is “I’ll just have a salad for dinner.” Some even take it farther, stating the intention to live off nothing but salad in the days leading up to a class reunion, a wedding, a beach trip, or some other occasion on which one typically wants to appear at one’s slimmest and trimmest.
So is an all-salad diet a good idea, then? Okay, we know that unhealthy “loaded” salads, like many fast food offerings won’t do much to help us achieve our weight loss goals. What about if we stick to clean, healthy salads consisting of straight-up veggies, no (or only fat free) dressing, though? Sue Heikkinen, a registered dietitian with MyNetDiary, gives such an all-salad diet a big thumbs-down. As she tells The List, “Although it may sound like a healthy choice, a salad is often not enough to constitute a filling meal and may make you feel overly hungry later.”
How to make your salad more satisfying
Heikkinen says that no matter how nutritious the veggies, “Any salad that only contains greens and vegetables would not be adequate as a meal.” In order to be filling, she says a meal needs lean protein and healthy fats, as well as the fiber from vegetables. “Eating puny salads for meals,” she says, “can leave you feeling deprived and may spur you to give up your weight loss efforts,” and also points out that eating a meal low in protein won’t adequately fuel your workouts should you be exercise-inclined. Yet another drawback of eating a skimpy salad is something Heikkinen calls the “health halo effect,” in which you feel so virtuous for having lunched on nothing but kale and carrot shreds that you feel entitled to splurge later and blow your calorie budget.
So does Heikkinen recommend skipping salads altogether? No, but she does advise “giv[ing] your salad more substance [by] add[ing] protein in the form of beans, cottage cheese, egg, or shrimp.” What’s more, she also recommends adding healthy fat in the form of a dressing or some nuts or seeds, telling us, “This will help you feel more full and will also increase absorption of some of the protective fat-soluble nutrients found in your salad veggies.” Need a suggestion to get you started? Try this Arugula Avocado Salad (via MyNetDiary), something Heikkinen says is “a great example of a satisfying salad due to healthy fats from avocado and protein from the chicken.”
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